By Blaidd Drwg
Part one of a two parter! In the immortal words of Mel Allen, “How about that?”
In the history of baseball, there have been 43 instances of a player hitting 50 or more home runs in a season. For reference, here is the breakdown of those seasons:
|Number of HRs||Number of Times Accomplished|
Here is the same list with one additional column – Number of Times Lead League. That column represents the number of times that the corresponding number of home runs was the highest total in the AL or NL in its respective season.
|Number of HRs||Number of Times Accomplished||Number of Times Lead League|
The asterisk is an unusual case – in 1997, thanks to a mid-season trade, Mark McGwire was in the unusual position of leading MLB in home runs with 58 without leading one of the individual leagues – he would hit 34 for the A’s, which ranked 9th in the AL in 1997, and 24 for the Cardinals, which ranked outside of the top 10. For the sake of this article we won’t consider that one.
This leaves 9 times that a player topped 50 HR’s without leading the league, which leads to my favorite list, the players who did not lead the league when hitting 50 HRs:
|1998||Sammy Sosa||66||2nd (NL)||Mark McGwire (70)|
|2001||Sammy Sosa||64||2nd (NL)||Barry Bonds (73)|
|1999||Sammy Sosa||63||2nd (NL)||Mark McGwire (65)|
|2001||Luis Gonzalez||57||3rd (NL)||Mark McGwire (70)|
|1961||Mickey Mantle||54||2nd (NL)||Roger Maris (61)|
|2002||Jim Thome||52||2nd (AL)||Alex Rodriguez (57)|
|1996||Brady Anderson||50||2nd (AL)||Mark McGwire (52)|
|1938||Jimmie Foxx||50||2nd (AL)||Hank Greenberg (58)|
|1998||Greg Vaughn||50||3rd (NL)||Mark McGwire (70)|
I feel bad for Luis Gonzalez and Greg Vaughn. They both had the misfortune of hitting a ton of HRs in years where two other player hit a ton more home runs than they did. Of course, then you have Sammy Sosa. Sosa lead the league twice in home runs – in 2000 and 2002, with totals of 50 and 49 and managed to lead the NL in HRs exactly 0 times in years that he hit 60+ home runs. Talk about bad timing.
The player that intrigued me the most is Jimmie Foxx and his 1938 campaign. In that season, Foxx would reach 50 home runs for the second time, to go along with 139 runs, 197 hits, 175 RBI, 119 BB, a .349 BA, 1.166 OPS, 182 OPS+ and 7.6 WAR to win his 3rd MVP award, missing out on the triple crown in only the home run category. It would be the second time that Foxx missed out in one category – he finished 2nd in the AL to Dale Alexander in 1932 in BA by .003 points. You shouldn’t feel too bad for Foxx though, he did win the 1932 MVP award (posting an insane 10.5 WAR, a number that has only been reached 36 times in baseball history) and he did manage to secure the Triple Crown the following season as well as also winning an MVP. The 1930’s were good for offense, what can I say, but Foxx is still arguably one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. If that isn’t enough, Foxx was also good enough to appear as a pitcher in 11 games in his career, including 9 in 1945, including 2 starts, when he was 37 years old. He posted a 1.59 ERA (albeit with not so stellar peripheral stats). It is also worth noting that when Foxx retired, he was #2 on the all-time career HR list, 170ish HR’s behind some guy named Ruth. For nearly 20 years, the 500 HR club was Foxx, Ruth and Mel Ott.
So why is this part 1 of a 2 parter? Well, it goes back to the guy who had a slightly higher BA in 1932 than Jimmie Foxx. Part 2 is going to answer the question I had when I was writing this piece – “Who the hell is Dale Alexander and why have I never heard of him?”